Heartbroken father cradles twin babies who died in Syria chemical attack

The father cradled his nine-month-old twins, Aya and Ahmed, each in an arm. He stroked their hair and choked back tears, mumbling, “Say goodbye, baby, say goodbye” to their lifeless bodies.

Abdel Hameed Alyousef lost his twins, his wife and other relatives in the suspected chemical attack on Tuesday in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed at least 86 people.

In footage shared with The Associated Press, Alyousef sits in the front seat of a van with the twins, his eyes red as he asks his cousin Alaa to video his farewell to them.

When the airstrike took place, “I was right beside them and I carried them outside the house with their mother,”Alyousef, a 29-year-old shopowner, told the AP.

“They were conscious at first, but 10 minutes later we could smell the odour.”

The twins and his wife, Dalal Ahmed, fell sick.

He brought them to paramedics and, thinking they would be OK, went to look for the rest of his family.

He found the bodies of two of his brothers, two nephews and a niece, as well as neighbours and friends.

“I couldn’t save anyone, they’re all dead now,” he said.

Only later was he told his children and wife had died.

“Abdel Hameed is in very bad shape,” his cousin Alaa said.

He’s being treated for exposure to the toxin.

“But he’s especially broken down over his massive loss.”

As the war-weary nation counts the cost of another gas-bombing, the world’s powers are looking for those responsible with many pointing the finger at the Assad regime.

US President Donald Trump called the attack an “affront to humanity” and accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government of going “beyond a red line” with a poison gas attack on civilians, but he declined to spell out how or whether his administration would respond.

“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” Trump said of the attack, which he described as an affront to humanity. “That crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line.”

In his first extensive remarks on the issue, Trump acknowledged at a joint news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah that he now had responsibility for Syria policy and said his views of Assad had changed.

Western countries, including the United States, have blamed Assad’s armed forces for the worst chemical attack in Syria for more than four years. The attack killed at least 70 people, many of them children. The Syrian military has denied responsibility.

Trump did not mention Russia, which asserted on Wednesday that Syrian rebels were to blame for the gas attack, a charge US officials dismissed. Russia has been a military backer of Assad in the country’s six-year-old civil war.

Trump, a Republican, has criticized his predecessor, Barack Obama, for not following through on his threat to intervene if chemical weapons were used in Syria, but he encouraged the Democratic president at the time not to take action in the war-ravaged country.

Trump said on Wednesday that Obama had squandered “a great opportunity” to solve the crisis by failing to uphold his “red line.”

“I think that set us back a long ways, not only in Syria but in many other parts of the world, because it was a blank threat,” Trump said.

“It is now my responsibility. It was a great opportunity missed.”

Asked during an earlier Oval Office meeting with Abdullah if he was formulating a new policy toward Syria, Trump told reporters: “You’ll see.”

Trump campaigned on the 2016 election on a promise to put America first in foreign policy, including by tightening rules on refugees.

On Wednesday, in addition to hardening his language on Assad, he softened his remarks about the men, women and children who were displaced by the war, saying he knew they wanted to go home.

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